An Open Letter to the Jewish People regarding the New Testament
By Andrew Gabriel Roth and Baruch Ben Daniel
Shalom! We feel very blessed to address these matters with those who share our ancestry and lineage. However you classify your Jewish faith, Reconstructionist to Chabad or all points in between, or whether you carry little or no faith in the Master, we’re confident you will have not heard what we’re about to say.
With virtually all the criticism we have heard over the last 2,000 years from all branches of Judaism over the controversies of the “New Testament” and Christianity itself, we are in relative agreement.
The “New Testament” is unavoidable, even by total rejection of it.
This fact may seem overly obvious or rather unpleasant, but either way it’s true. The “New Testament” is one of the most powerful forces driving global spiritual trends that have a direct bearing on the existence and quality of life of the Jewish people. The very reason why so many evangelical Christians support the state of Israel is bound within its prophecies regarding the advent of the Acharit haYamim (Latter Days). The “New Testament” is also responsible for ripping a vision of the Tanakh—albeit an imperfect vision—from our ethnic group and into the broader world. Yes, translations (Septuagint) also did this before the Common Era, but history also shows that what began there was magnified many times over and solidified by both sides of a debate that began 2,000 years ago.
And so, whatever the ultimate truth may be, Jewish history remains incomplete without including the full breadth of interpretive discussion and discord that arose out of First Century Israel. Even if we were to deny every word, indeed every possible interpretation of those words in its pages, we cannot ignore it. If we cannot ignore it then we need to understand these perspectives apart from any faith-based decisions regarding its message. The fact of the matter is, in order to do this effectively we must restore its original message.
We need to re-frame even the contours of our definitions.
Through two millennia of nearly constant pain, pogroms and holocausts, the easy road has been to employ shortcuts and quick classifications. The “New Testament” to many is simply a piece of heretical trash that our enemies used against us to try to destroy us. We know very well of the Crusaders slaughtering Jews in Jerusalem quoting from its pages. We know Hitler used polemical phrases like “synagogue of Satan” to his advantage. These uses have been hateful and worthy of reproach at every level, but ultimately they are misapplications. History is bigger than us all, and we must strip away the prisms of prejudice and make a right judgment that may not be neat or convenient.
So, then, let’s strip the layers of deception away, and get to the root of this controversy whose real bottom line is how we should actually re-cast the discussion:
There is no doubt whatsoever that, regardless as to the endless speculations on the matter, ultimately our only “Moshiach,” our only “Savior” is Almighty Elohim. He is One and He is exclusive. The debate should never have degenerated away from this fact. We need to affirm that the real debate is not THAT Elohim saves but HOW He saves. What is the mechanism or agency? What is the timing? Most importantly, what does “salvation” itself really mean?
We do not pretend to answer these questions for someone else, or plant thoughts in the minds of others; rather, we encourage asking significant additional questions. But this matter of our ultimate Author of life both in this world and the world to come is, indeed, the first area where we agree: The Rabbis were right.
Passionate disputation among Jews is nothing new.
Disagreement of many core principles within various Jewish schools may have solidified the opinions of the individual school, but such has never invalidated the right of the persons in argument to be Jewish. The schools of Hillel and Shammai were legendary in the scope of their debates, as is the entire flow and purpose of the Talmud with rabbis and sages deciding the scope and application of the fidelities of Torah.
On the other hand, there is general consensus that certain beliefs can never be thought of as Jewish; one of the most important being that we cannot bow down to false deities or tolerate paganism or idolatry in any form. To do so in either ancient or modern formulations is to cast oneself out of the community of the covenant, and therefore, the Rabbis were right.
What we would like to ask, however, is that you set aside – for the sake of argument – the Messianic aspect as currently understood via the Western Christian hijacking of Torah original concepts. Instead, please stay with the definition, if you can: the debate on how Elohim saves.
The Greek New Testament, in traditional form, has inaccurate information
and often contradicts to both Torah and the sages.
While we Jews may well enjoy and promote cultural diversity we also retain our own special distinctiveness as a people, and there are places where we draw clear lines when debating with Christians. One of these lines (speaking from personal experience), has to do with going out of our way not to offend Christians due to an obvious advantage: The Greek New Testament has very evident errors and mis-statements that simply cannot be reconciled with our Hebrew Bible.
Here are but a few examples of errors contained in the Greek New Testament:
• Lepers can own houses two miles from Jerusalem and throw dinner parties for other Jews to attend? Or, that a Leper if cured, would continue to allow himself to be called a Leper without launching a lawsuit for slander (on prevention from gainful employment)?
• The leading Torah experts of the time didn’t realize that at least half a dozen prophets from Tanakh were residents of the Galilee?
• These same Torah experts claimed “we were never slaves” and denied the Exodus?
• A eunuch from Ethiopia can legally worship in the Temple?
Notwithstanding matters of idolatry via Trinity, changing the Shabbat to the first day of the week, we could go on and on and on ad nauseum. So, in respect to these writings that have been unquestioningly accepted by 95 percent of Christendom, the Rabbis were right.
The Word of Elohim has always been revealed in a Semitic framework.
But just because one version of the “New Testament” has very significant problems, it doesn’t mean all of them do. Each one of the issues highlighted above, and hundreds of others are 100 percent resolved in the original Aramaic versions. That is likely why you are visiting this website after all, to look at the Semitic text and see for yourself what it is all about. As for the matter of which text came first, the case for Aramaic Primacy is self-evident within this translation.
This issue has long brought tension within Jewish communities. On the one hand, most of us recognize the advantages of learning Torah in the original Hebrew autograph. However, ancient attempts from the Septuagint and the Aramaic Targums were always critical to advancing our faith as the latest Stone Edition of Tanakh or interlinear Siddur. Our sermons may be in English, Polish or French, but our Torah scrolls are identical letter-for-letter in the Hebrew. We also remember well that in Israel – owing to the idea that the Torah could never adequately be translated – leading rabbis instituted a day of mourning to weep on the day the Septuagint was completed.
Even our mystical traditions are permeated with gematriya and all manner of linguistic veneration for the 22 letter Hebrew alap-beyt. We rejoice according to Tehillim and our liturgy and the unbroken chain of fidelity that causes us to continue writing scrolls on animal skins in the precise way they have been for 4,000 years. We know that translations are necessary, but that original Semitic learning is vital to our long term survival and will never be taken from us.
In this too, the Rabbis were right: however, Aramaic plays a very significant role in that Semitic continuum. It is far deeper than having a line from Genesis and portions of Esther and Daniel in the Aramaic language. Aramaic is so deeply entrenched that most Jews don’t even know it is there, but it hides under our familiar Hebrew square script. If you ask the rabbis what the technical name for our “Hebrew” script is, they will tell you ktav ashurri, “Assyrian Writing” – and the Assyrians wrote and spoke in Aramaic. That is why the sages have told us:
“My son, do not lightly esteem the Aramaic language,
for the Holy One, blessed be He, has seen fit to give it voice in the Torah
and the Prophets and the Writings.”
Palestinian Talmud, Sotah, 7.2
How many Jews have attended their son’s ben mitzvah, no we use the Aramaic for “son” – bar –instead. And when we ran a fever as children, our mothers didn’t feel our resheh but our keppie, the latter being Aramaic for “head”. We have toggled between these languages unconsciously for thousands of years, and our liturgy from Talmud to Zohar, from Kaddish to Amidah, reflects this beautiful co-mingling of two languages.
And so, for at least 22 of the 27 “New Testament” books an ancient Jewish-Aramaic version has survived intact; would this not bear some looking into? At a minimum, the Jewish world must at least investigate the original language of Y’shua of Nazareth and if he really said what others claim. To let that opportunity go unexplored would be like studying Shakespeare only in Swahili; at best you will only get the basics but lose nuances and great depth in the process.
The bottom line is: If we reject the “New Testament” let us at least know what it is we are rejecting! The rest, as the sages say, is just commentary.
You are about to read a version of the “New Testament” unlike anything you have ever seen or heard of before. If, in the end, you still disagree, we will remain content in the knowledge that at least the real story, after 2000 years of manifold distortions, has finally been told.
If not us, who? If not now, when?